What is toy fatigue and how do we treat it?

cross-eyed cat looking at camera

We all know what cats do when you get a package in the mail. They smell the box, scent mark it by bunting, and eventually jump inside. This is because that box is brand new to them. They can‘t help but check it out. This desire is known as neophilia: the enthusiasm for what is new or novel. When your cat sees or smells something they haven’t encountered before, their natural curiosity is piqued.

The opposite is also true. When they encounter the same things day in and day out, they lose interest. So, even if your cat has a hundred toys, they may stop playing because they’re bored with the selection. It smells, looks, and feels old. This is called toy fatigue.

Toy fatigue can turn the coolest toys into pieces of junk. Just like with people, novelty is everything, and cats want new experiences, new toys, and new smells. Toys become predictable because they never change, and let’s be honest, wild prey is never predictable. Birds, rodents, lizards and bugs skitter, slither, and fly in erratic patterns. And cats love it! 

long haired orange tabby cat on his back looking adoringly up at the camera

If you are only giving your cats the same toys or using the same movements all the time, they will lose interest and may stop playing all together. We would feel the same way given a few items meant to last us a lifetime. Everyone wants variety. Imagine if you had to wear the same outfit every day or eat the same food forever. You’d be bored to tears and that’s what happens to your cat. He only has what’s within the four walls of your home, so you need to offer him some variety.

Buzzer cat toy wand attachment by Dezi & Roo


Toy rotation is the easiest way to offer your cat variety and keep them interested in playtime. Instead of leaving all of their toys out all the time, you should develop a system to regularly change out the available toys.

Here’s an easy way to implement toy rotation in your own home.

Step 1:  Gather all your cat’s toys in a box or bin.

Step 2:  Decide which to keep and which to throw away. Replace worn out toys if necessary. 

Step 3: Categorize the toys into interactive play, independent play, and scent. Make sure you have a few in each category to satisfy your cat’s needs.

Step 4: Choose a small selection from each category for your cat to play with and keep the rest hidden. When you notice your cat starting to lose interest in any toys. Swap out those toys and replace them with some that have been stored away. If your cat has favorites, it’s okay to keep those out all the time. The whole point is to remove toys that aren't being played with and replace them with something fresh.

Step 5: Buy new toys regularly, discard worn out toys, and repurpose old toys. You can easily upcycle undamaged toys with a pinch of silver vine.

Step 6: Repeat steps four and five regularly. Set up a reminder on your phone or write it on your calendar so you don’t forget. 

Now sit back, and watch your cat enjoy their “new” toys.

1 comment

  • jmuhj

    The Buzzer looks like a sure favorite. Spiced with the ‘vine, they won’t be able to resist! Wishing there was a computer chip inside with the realistic buzzing sound. Now THAT would be a winner! ;)

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